Tokyo has demanded Seoul stop using the term “sex slaves” when referring to the “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemistic term for the tens of thousands of females who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during the war, sources close to Japan-South Korean relations said Saturday.
South Korea rejected the demand, made in bilateral working-level negotiations on resolving the long-standing issue, the sources said.
In the negotiations, Japan has also demanded the removal of a statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul of a girl that symbolizes the issue, the sources said. Tokyo also wants Seoul to stop meddling in the activities of private groups speaking ill of Japan abroad, they added.
Tokyo hopes for a deal to put an end to the issue, and for the South Korean government to guarantee that it will prevent private organizations from raising it again, they said.
To settle the matter, South Korea has insisted that Japan recognize its legal responsibility. South Korea has also demanded that the Japanese prime minister apologize to South Korea, the Japanese ambassador apologize to the former comfort women, and the Japanese government directly pay compensation to them.
Tokyo maintains that all war-related compensation issues were settled under the 1965 Japan-South Korean treaty that normalized bilateral ties.
In 2012, then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda proposed three conditions to then-South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to settle the issue. While rejecting legal responsibility, Noda asked if a solution were possible under three conditions similar to those currently proposed by South Korea, according to the sources.
South Korea rejected those terms at the time, and the current government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party has not advocated the same conditions put forth by Noda, the sources said.
A 1996 U.N. report on comfort women written by Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer, used the term “sex slaves” and demanded Japan apologize and pay compensation. In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a landmark apology acknowledging the issue and the use of coercion in its execution.
The Kono statement said: “As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc., were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.”